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Please Don't Quote Me

By Caralee Aschenbrenner

MEREDOCIA. PART II

THE WHITESIDE COUNTY HISTORY, 1877, introduced its record concerning its township’s past by telling about the Meredocia Swamp. That’s how important it was. Its location was described according to the rivers and creek that made up its 12,000 acres and how in flood or low waters affected the “Marsh of Willows” as the word translated. The geology of the frontier as yet unsettled or civilized was a valuable item to know and in this case the Mississippi, Rock Rivers and Meredocia Creek added to the vitality of the landscape.

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The book records this, “The township along the river until the Meredocia is reached is made up of high bluffs thence along the Meredocia are low frequent sloughs. The balance of the township is sufficiently rolling to render cultivation certain in every season ... Upon the farm of W.S. Booth, about one mile south of the Village of Albany the Spring Creek Union Agricultural Society holds its annual fairs. In 1849 at the break up by the ice on Rock River a gorge was formed below where the Meredocia Creek enters the Rock causing the ice to destroy the bridge.

“Capt. H.A. Gear and others of Galena laid out a town at the mouth of the Meredocia with the Mississippi being to avoid the rapids above the Rock Island. After making a careful survey of the Rock, greater obstructions were found, more than at the Rapids the project was abandoned.”

A canal around the Rapids, a drawback there, the situation was just too costly. Although many plans looked good on paper, in fact they were not doable but some did them anyway!

In 1835 S. Mitchell and Edward Corben, brothers-in-law from Ohio, settled at what became known as Upper Albany and Lower Albany. Mitchell put up the conventional small log cabin while the other tethered a tent in a large tree so the legend grew that “first settler” lived in a tree!

Every year newcomers came to the riverside settlement. There’s lots more detail but will list those developments later.

The one thing we do need to tell you, however, is that the Albanys had a couple grand hotels that drew traffic from river or land travelers. Perhaps because of its accommodating beach, if it was such back in the early 1840’s and after. The Albanys was a center for stagecoach station from companies other than Frink and Walker. At first stage lines from Chicago came over land to Galena, then down river to Albany where a ferry took them cross-river to Camanche, Iowa. Other varieties of combinations occurred through the decades. It was understood that Albany was a travelers destination—or at least an efficient highway pass through. Bridges had become common and “Hard Roads” were rumored. They were popping up all around the state.

On June 16, 1927 a “Hard Road” meeting was held in Thomson to discuss the coming of Rt. 80—immediately.

It wasn’t just any meeting—after all the modern day was arriving via the hard road!

Bands played, flags waved, there was singing by all, and statewide known figures making speeches. Many of the influential favored a gas tax to pay for construction.

JANUARY 6, 1930—A group of surveyors were running lines and establishing grades for Rt. 80. Director of Public Works, H.H. Cleaveland, Rock Island, said abandonment of injunction proceedings against the gas tax law released twenty-one million dollars for state proceedings ... One project will be routing of a highway through Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry and Mercer Counties. One route will extend from East Moline, Hampton, northward, Rapid City, Cordova, Albany through Savanna to Rt. 5 at Galena.

The newspaper went on to say that it was rumored that the highway would be routed on the other side of the railroad tracks of the C, M, St.P which a vocal group felt it would take away the important scenic value of the “river route” that would draw tourists as well as locals and the curious.

Several meetings were held in the immediate succeeding days due to complaints from a large floral business and a gravel and sand business but every method was approached with all diplomacy.

The completion of the Hard Road was affected by October 12, 1932 when a celebration was held at the Albany Community Hall with a banquet held in the lower level of the Hall. The highway is now Rt. 84.

Unbelievable as it may seem there was a toll road near the site of the Meredocia; such a contemporary feature at an ancient landmark. The original maps show 470 miles of toll roads built at a cost of $583 million was to be spent on toll roads in Illinois, one segment to connect the Quad Cities with Chicago. The toll would be charged east from Dixon.

Helen Hanson, late of Albany, wrote in her informative book, “Trailways to Albany, 2000” that it would serve as a truck route primarily hauling grain and livestock! It was renumbered I-88 in 1995.

It is not nearly as well known as the Meredocia once was. It was also known as Marias d’ Ozier. That’s even better.

 

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